It is the start of the silly season of college football. We are in that precious time between the end of the regular season and the all too distant bowl season.
While some teams are preparing for a bowl, others are putting 2016 in the past by firing their head coach and looking for another. Other programs are fighting the big boys to keep their coach in-house. Sometimes that fight is lost before it begins and that program must start over with a new head coach.
Such is the case for Western Kentucky and Jeff Brohm. It was a given that sooner or later some team would swoop in and steal him from the Hilltoppers, but it was a surprise that it was Purdue. Brohm did a great job and leaves the program in great shape for his eventual successor.
Let’s take a look at five potential candidates to become the next WKU head coach starting with in-house candidates.
- Tony Levine, TE/Special Teams Coordinator WKU: Levine is an interesting candidate. He was the head coach at Houston following the departure of Kevin Sumlin. Levine was with the Cougars for four seasons before earning the top job. During his time with Houston, the Cougars went 21-17, including a 7-5 season in 2014. That was enough to force the program to relieve him of his duties. It looks a little worse on him since Tom Herman was able to immediately turn Houston into the Cotton Bowl champs.
- Nick Holt, Defensive Coordinator WKU: A favorite of the players since he was brought in by Bobby Petrino in 2013, Holt has been the architect of a WKU defense that the always seems to make the right play at the right time. WKU will never be a defensive powerhouse with the offense scoring so often, but Holt has done a solid job. He has been coaching since 1986 with stints at UNLV, Idaho, Louisville, USC, Washington, and Arkansas. Holt has head coaching experience, spending the 2004-2005 seasons as the head coach of Idaho.
- Neal Brown, Head Coach Troy: If there is a name that has been thrown around more than Brown’s in the last few weeks, it would surprise me. Brown is a Kentucky native that has played and coached for the University of Kentucky in his past. He took over a floundering Troy program and has the chance to give Troy their first double-digit win season in 16 years. He is only in his second year of head coaching, making him one of the hottest up and coming coaches in the nation.
- Jason Michael, Quarterback Coach Tennessee Titans: When longtime WKU fans hear this name, their ears perk up. Michael was the quarterback of the I-AA championship Hilltoppers squad in 2002. He has been an NFL assistant coach for the majority of his coaching career, save two years as a graduate assistant and the 2008 season as Tennessee’s TE coach. Michael has been with the Raiders, Jets, 49ers, Chargers, and Titans as an assistant. He was the Titans offensive coordinator in 2014-2015, but was moved to QB coach in 2016. That move has allowed him and quarterback Marcus Mariota to thrive this season.
- TJ Weist, Co-Offensive Coordinator South Florida: You can make a case that Weist has more WKU ties than any other coaching candidate on this list. He is in his first year at South Florida with former Hilltoppers head coach Willie Taggart, he was an assistant at WKU from 2002-2009, and is still very respected by the WKU community. Weist even has some head coaching experience after taking over as the interim head coach at Connecticut following the dismissal of Paul Pasqualoni. He was 3-5 before giving way to current UConn head coach Bob Daico.
- Lane Kiffin, OC Alabama: This name has seriously been bandied around as a longshot possibility. It would be interesting if it had even a remote chance of happening. Kiffin is not leaving Alabama unless he gets a P5 job.
- Tyson Helton, Quarterback Coach/Passing Game Coordinator USC: Not as much of a longshot as Kiffin, Helton was part of the WKU coaching staff in 2014 and 2015 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Helton has spent the entirety of his coaching career except this season with G5 programs (Hawaii, Memphis, UAB, Cincinnati, WKU). I don’t think he will get the job, but Helton is a coach that will be leading a program soon.